As you may have seen in my introductory thread, I'm new to this. I've only considered myself buddhist for ~2 days now and I've been doing much reading to basically learn where to start learning. Much to my personal disappointment I've not managed to find the information I've been looking for. Perhaps this comes as a result of not having a conveniently located meditation group, temple, or monastery. Hopefully you all can help to guide me a little bit, I'm particularly interested in the opinions of those who run meditation groups or even live at a monastery right now.
Firstly, I have no real simple way to find a teacher that I can regularly have access to. This means I essentially have to teach myself to meditate properly, how to chant, or doing any of these other things that are perhaps best taught in person. I actually haven't even discerned the reason chanting is so important, or when it should be done, and what chants should be done on each day, etc., etc., You can easily see how I am missing on many small cultural things (and in the case of meditation a BIG thing) that would help to guide me on the path to nibbana (sp?).
Aside from that, but still related to it, is the subject of the shrine. Is there any kind of a guide on how one should set up a shrine, and what one should include, what trappings it should have, and other details? Why should one have a shrine, and what function does it serve in the daily routine of a buddhist?
Further delving into the topic of meditation, for the advanced meditators here would you feel comfortable learning to meditate based off of only reading online/books? I've read much material on the theory, but almost all of this material says I should find a teacher. There is a possibility that I can go to a monastery near me called Bhavana Society, but that is likely months away and I would like to get started.
I realize that I am asking about a lot of things that may seem trivial, or unimportant, but I view these kinds of trappings as kinds of training wheels, if you will. Basically, I do not want to create the foundation of my practice out of ill knowledge and so I turn to you for your guidance on this matter. If you can think of an area where a beginner may have questions, I undoubtedly have them.
Thank you all so much.